Justin Smith Morrill (April 14, 1810 – December 28, 1898) was a Representative (1855–1867) and a Senator (1867–1898) from Vermont. He spearheaded the Morrill Acts that established federal funding for founding many of the United States' public colleges and universities. He was one of the founders of the Republican Party.
See below the Justin Smith Morrill Quote in seeking to have the land-grant institutions established in 1862 admit freed slaves:
"Having emancipated a whole race, shall it be said that there our duty ends, leaving the race as cumberers of the ground, to live or to wilt and perish, as the case may be? They are members of the American family, and their advancement concerns us all. While swiftly forgetting all they ever knew as slaves, shall they have no opportunity to learn anything as freemen?"
Justin Morrill's Vision for Land-grant Colleges
The First Morrill Act of 1862 established at least one college in every State "upon a sure and perpetual foundation, accessible to all, but especially to the sons of toil, where all of needful science for the practical avocations of life shall be taught, where neither the higher graces of classical studies nor that military drill our country now so greatly appreciates will be entirely ignored, and where agriculture, the foundation of all present and future prosperity, may look for troops of earnest friends, studying its familiar and recondite economies, and at last elevating it to that higher level where it may fearlessly invoke comparison with the most advanced standards of the world."
Justin Morrill, the Father of Land Grant Institutions, was a magnanimous leader of his time and his vision is needed just as much today as it was more than 150 years ago. His vision was all about education, opportunity and national prosperity. He held to the belief that if there is a nation with a class of people, a race of people or underrepresented citizens who do not have education and opportunity, this nation would greatly fall short of its potential.
As the forefathers truly digested the new educational mind set for the 1800s – educating the common man, providing educational opportunity for all – a very foundational working group had been overlooked. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 included this class of laborers. In 1865, about four million, hard-working, but primarily illiterate blacks were set free from slavery. Although it was in the best interest of the nation to set a course of education for this group, little attention had been paid to their needs. Sadly, there was even entrenched resistance to providing opportunities to this segment of the population who helped build this nation while being considered as an underclass, or as having no "class" at all. However, Congress did pass the Second Morrill Act of 1890 which included the stipulation that African Americans were to be included in the U.S. Land Grant University Higher Education System without discrimination. The seventeen (17) Southern and Border States would not consent to this admission of blacks to their institutions. Therefore, in the legislation, it was allowable for these seventeen states to found a second land-grant institution, which became known as the Negro Land-Grant Institutions and today as the 1890 Land-Grant Universities and Tuskegee University (the 1890s). Today there are eighteen (18) states that have 1890 Land-Grant Universities. The 2014 Farm Bill included Central State University from the state of Ohio.
The Morrill Act was first proposed in 1857, and was passed by Congress in 1859, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861, Morrill resubmitted the act with the amendment that the proposed institutions would teach military tactics as well as engineering and agriculture. Aided by the secession of many states that did not support the plans, this reconfigured Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July
The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:
'without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.'
Under the act, each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres (120 km2) of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding the educational institutions described above. Under provision six of the Act, "No State while in a condition of rebellion or insurrection against the government of the United States shall be entitled to the benefit of this act," in reference to the recent secession of several Southern states and the currently raging American Civil War." Overall, the 1862 Morrill Act allocated 17,400,000 acres (70,000 km2) of land, which when sold yielded a collective endowment of $7.55 million."
A second Morrill Act in 1890 was also aimed at the former Confederate states. This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Among the seventy colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's historically Black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act did not require the provision of federal land, it granted colleges under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; hence the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.
Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status.